How to Write Your Way to a Better Bible Study


By Tricia Brown, United Methodist Communications

When it comes to putting thoughts to paper or screen, you will find two groups of people: those who like to write and those who don't. If you fall into the first category, you may find that note-taking helps you learn. You may discover that adding your own experiences, thoughts and reflections to your notes can expand and deepen your quiet time.

Note-taking tips and tools

Note-taking is transferring information from one source to another, usually in an abbreviated and systematic way. It is among the many creative ways to explore a Bible passage. These few ways to perfect your note-taking skills can help you use your time wisely and glean the most helpful information for later review and use.

  • Think before you write. After you read and study a passage, spend a few minutes reflecting before you write anything.
  • Consider what information will be valuable when you use your notes later or what points will be helpful as you formulate your sermon or other message.
  • Write the main points, the most important information. Use keywords and very short sentences as you put key points into your own words.
  • Keep your notes simple and easy to follow.
  • Place your notes in an order that will make sense to you and that you can easily follow.
  • Leave a little white space between notes so that you can add items later. This is especially true if you want to add journal entries to your notes.
  • Always place quotation marks around direct quotes and note the source.
  • Return to your notes soon after completing your study time. Reread them. Add extra notes that may come to mind or clarify unclear points.

Traditionally, people have used notebooks or even the margins of their Bible to record notes from their study time. However, note-taking apps like Evernote and Google Keep offer several advantages to traditional pen and paper.

Never struggle to read your own handwriting

If your notes are typed, you never have to worry about not being able to read your own writing. On the other hand, if you prefer the old-fashioned way, apps, such as ZOHO Notebook, allow you to use a stylus or your finger to record handwritten notes in electronic files. Some apps even allow your notes to be read back to you.

Don't worry about lugging all those notebooks

Many note-taking apps give you access to your notes through multiple electronic devices. Imagine accessing your notes through your phone while visiting someone at the hospital or pulling them up on your tablet at home. Some apps even allow you to access the notes when you are offline.

There's no need to write and rewrite

Electronic notetaking makes it easy to copy or cut and paste from Internet sources. You can also rearrange, organize and outline your notes with ease. Search functions allow you to locate items of interest quickly within the notes. In addition, the top online note-taking applications allow users easily to share notes.

It's never been easier to jazz up your notes!

Electronic note-taking allows you to add interest instantly and easily. You can add graphics, links, illustrations and video clips to your notes. You can also change the color or style of your paper. With apps such as Padlet and Lino, you can add electronic "sticky notes" to mark special points of interest or create bulletin boards of information to help as you process your information.

Enhance your notes with journaling

Journaling is a record of events, emotions, ideas or reflections, more like a diary. Today, adults use wide-margin Bibles to journal as they study God's word. They purchase fancy notebooks to record their deepest thoughts and use online applications like Penzu and Journalate to inspire creativity in their studies.

Bookstores and churches like Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Afton, Tennessee conduct journaling workshops. Whether you choose to write manually or electronically, you can facilitate your own spiritual growth as well as your sermon planning by adding some of these elements to your notes:

  • Your reaction to the Bible passage: What does it mean? How does it personally speak to you? How can you apply it in your life?
  • Random words or thoughts that come to mind as you meditate on a verse.
  • Inspiring quotes that relate to what you have read.
  • Passages from other books or poems or lyrics from hymns or songs that inspire you.
  • Prayers, prayer requests or answers to prayer.
  • Drawings (original or from others) that help you relate to what you are studying.

If you don't know what to write, journaling apps like 750words or provide prompts to get your creative juices flowing. While the topic will probably have nothing to do with your Bible study, it may help you start writing and lead to further exploration or thought. If you prefer the traditional diary approach but want the convenience afforded by electronic versions, check Online Diary Reviews to compare usability, security and publishing options. Common Sense Media reviews journal apps, online diaries and digital scrapbooks for children of all ages.

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If you choose to journal manually, you can use stickers, markers, highlighters, decorative tape, colored pens and scrapbook paper to add interest and expression. Many journaling apps give you creative electronic options as well. Try something new! Combine note-taking and journaling to enhance your Bible study, prayer time and sermon preparation.